I just listened to episode 38 of the podcast IRQ Conflict. In the podcast they touch on the topic of apps for kids.
This really triggered me so I decided to write a blog entry about it. In this blog post I will primarily focus on game apps.
I have two sons, Sylvester and Villads aged 5 and 7 and they love playing games on Playstation 2, Nintendo DS, iPhone and iPad. Recently the focus has been primarily on the iPad. I have configured the device in such a way they are not able to acquire or delete applications without my password. So I can take it easy with them using the iPad – and this access control even for games that are free are really useful.
Villads my oldest son however are discovering new games at a rate were I am unable to keep up. Normally I would try out the games prior to letting them play. This mean that a lot of games are played without me knowing the gameplay of the games and he is really good at finding free games.
My biggest worry is not the content of the games. When I am requested to enter my password by the boys I can often judge a game quite fast, by evaluating the screenshots and related information – and they do seem to find games that are aimed at their age. Compared to the Nintendo shop, I really like the App Store since it gives me a good overview of what I am requested to acquire.
There are however a few things that bother me with iOS games and especially the free ones.
In-app purchases are a good idea. I have no problem with that and the in-app purchase model, does offer the opportunity of getting the games for free and you can play them, evaluate the gameplay and then evaluate whether you want to go further with the game – most often we don’t.
The model, that works best for is the games that are limited in gameplay in the free version and then lets you click a fancy link to take you to the full version is what we most often have used in acquiring paid games.
My biggest problem is with in-app purchases are in the games, where you are actually required to buy assets in the game in order to complete it. Kids are not the most patient (mine aren’t anyway) and the opportunity of being able to move on, be stronger, or complete the game faster is very intriguing to them and they do not always understand that I find it a bad idea that they spend their money on these micro-payments to get these assets. In my opinion this is bad gameplay considering that we are dealing with kids, luckily the model is not dominating in the gaming category.
On the topic of bad gameplay a more serious problem however is with games that run around the clock. This is a horrible concept for gameplay. Games should be turn on play and turn of when you are done. Gaming is entertainment and should not be so intrusive. These games are influencing non-game time and sets the kids and their parents in a very problematic situation and causes conflicts.
As I wrote earlier I have used to evaluate the games prior to letting Sylvester and Villads play, so I have experienced getting caught up in games with this particular gameplay. After a period of playing as the first thing I did in the morning and the last thing I did before I went to bed, I decided that this sort of gaming was bad for me. It influenced my concentration and my productivity, so I deleted the games.
If this gameplay concept is problematic for adults, so it should not be used in games focused on kids. Game time and real time is not the same and the games are becoming too imposing.
Ads are primarily seen in games aimed at adults, but I have seen ads in games also played by kids. This is just dumb. Ads ruin the user experience and kids do not get them anyway. Developers should decide on another economic model when games are targeted at kids.
I am very interested in improving my gaming experiences with Villads and Sylvester, so any comments or advice would be most welcome, even suggestions for titles we should try out as long as they are not founded in the bad practices mentioned in this post.